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Kasatkina and Osaka gun for Indian Wells glory
Two 20-year-olds will battle for the WTA crown at Indian Wells on Sunday. Daria Kasatkina, the 20th seed from Russia, will take on Naomi Osaka from Japan for the first time in a fight for the most glittering title of their fledgling careers. It is a fitting finale: young gunslingers in a duel in the American west.
Kasatkina has the experience having claimed the 2017 Charleston title. There have also been appearances in the final in Dubai in February 2018 and in Moscow in October 2017.
Osaka, the world number 44, has only ever been to a championship match once before. That was in Tokyo in September 2016 when she lost to Caroline Wozniacki.
She was a teenager then and those callow days appear long gone. Her run to the showdown in the Californian desert has been as aridly brutal as the midday sun. She deconstructed the former world number one Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-4 in the first round and saw off the former top five player Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round.
She then spiked two of the biggest guns on the tour. World number five Karolina Pliskova was sent packing in the quarters and world number one Simona Halep was dried out 6-3 6-0 in the semis.
“I find it easier to play against the bigger players just because you know you have to constantly keep up the concentration and you can’t really afford to lose points.”
Indian Wells is one of the premier mandatory events which are the most prestigious on the women’s circuit after the four Grand Slam tournaments in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York.
Kasatkina will start as the slight favourite because of her status and also because she too has dispatched supposed superiors. World number eight Venus Williams was seen off in three sets in the semi-finals. In the last eight, she pulverised world number 10 Angelique Kerber 6-0 6-2. Before that in the last 16, she eliminated world number two Caroline Wozniacki.
“I was not trying to put something like this on my shoulders,” said the Russian ahead of the final. “I was just playing and practicing and it comes. You have to give yourself time.”